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I am a recent graduate. Next week I have interviews with company A and company B. While preparing for these interviews and reviewing my resume, I realized that I wrote some things in my resume that may be misleading. I know this could disqualify me from the competitions, which really sucks because they are kind of like dream companies for me.

In my co-op work experience, I mentioned that I "managed the xyz project". That is perhaps wrong. The correct way to express that would be something like the "I was the lead analyst in the xyz research study". I was relying too much on the resume guidelines that say "start bullets with verbs like managed, led, directed, supervised, etc."

My mistake was using the words "manage" and "project" based on their general definitions, and then using them incorrectly together. Here is what I meant to say:

Merriam-Webster:

Project: a planned piece of work that has a specific purpose (such as to find information or to make something new) and that usually requires a lot of time
Manage: to handle or direct with a degree of skill

Here is what I wrote in my resume:

Economic Analyst (Co-op), Ministry of Finance, Jan 2018 – Apr 2018
a) Managed the Employment Insurance project and developed a comprehensive project report analyzing policy trends and key differences between provinces and territories.
b) Collected, organized, and analyzed data and information from diverse sources.
c) Prepared briefing materials and presented findings to the branch and the executive director.
d) Collaborated with the team to develop budget analysis reports. I analyzed changes in the revenue and expenditure forecasts of provincial budgets and fiscal plans. These reports were sent to the deputy minister within hours of the release of the budgets.

Policy Research Assistant (Co-op), Ministry of Energy, May 2017 – Dec 2017
a) Managed the Minerals Tax project and produced a report analyzing mineral tax policies across Canada.
b) Collected and organized data from the mineral resources acts and regulations of all provinces and territories.
c) Analyzed the data and provided senior management with advice and recommendations on policy reforms.
d) Delivered engaging presentations to senior staff members and the assistant deputy minister.
e) Produced the mining sector newsletter every month for 8 months.
f) Conducted research on different projects and worked collaboratively with the team to develop specific sections of project reports and discussion papers.
g) Managed and updated several databases regularly.

Saying "managed the xyz project" seems wrong since these aren't really projects. More like research work or research studies. Based on the dictionary definition of "project", academic publications, for example, are projects. But that isn't Project Management. Building a bridge, a pollution abatement plant, designing technology to increase productivity or profits are examples of projects. Or even conducting socio-economic impact assessments of such undertakings can be called projects. I wasn't responsible for leading a team or handing funding, and neither did I do any of those studies for any clients.

In Company A, I will be working on impact assessments and policy reviews for clients. Collecting information, analyzing data, doing econometric modelling, and giving feedback to clients through reports. I will be an analyst giving advice and recommendations to clients who will be paying my company for the services. I will be working in a team. So this job actually entails working on real projects. Now I have already done the first stage of interviews in this company and I have a second one next week.

I have my first interview with Company B next week. A number of senior economists have seen my resume. In this job, I won't be working on projects, but I will be working on analyzing data and on research studies for the organization.

I have talked with my supervisors at both ministries and informed them of the mistake. So they know how to respond if a reference check is done. I am wondering if I should mention this to Company A and Company B before the interviews next week. If I should, then what is the best way to do this? What should I say? I didn't intend to lie or make things up. Everything else in the resume is accurate.

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    You might want to add a country tag. In some jurisdictions, companies can fire you on the slot when you made false claims in your CV and they find out later. In some jurisdictions, they might even can you make pay for the damage. Therefore when you tell them you might need a paper trail that you told and corrected the CV before they hired you otherwise they might use it against you later on. – spickermann Mar 13 at 6:04
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    Obviously it would be unseemly to refer to making the tea at afternoon break as the "tea-making project", but otherwise "managing a project" seems like reasonable CV blurb for pursuing any non-routine activity, and certainly a synonym of a "research study". I wouldn't get too worked up about this - simply declare that you swallowed some advice about CV keywords and action phrases too literally, and on later reflection you think these activities would be better described as "leading a research study" rather than "managing a project". – Steve Mar 13 at 7:38
  • @Steve Hi Steve, are you suggesting I inform the interviewers before the interviews that I swallowed some advice about CV keywords and action phrases too literally, and on later reflection I think these activities would be better described as "leading a research study" rather than "managing a project". Or should I tell them IF asked? – AIQ Mar 13 at 7:45
  • @AIQ, I was assuming that you were already certain of the need to inform them, in which case I'd have sent an email beforehand with an explanation, and perhaps a new CV with relevant wording changed. I'd expect interviewers nowadays to have a wearily indulgent attitude towards CV hyperbole and "seller's puff", especially from youths who can't be expected to have much substantial experience and are being put through a beauty contest, but if what you've said is positively false then take the initiative to explain the error and correct the record. – Steve Mar 13 at 8:30
  • It won't help now. But the advice I always follow is "Never write a statement in a CV that you're not prepared to defend in an interview". – Kaz Mar 13 at 10:49
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Looking at your detailed description. Taking it all at face value.

In fact your resume as-is, is perfectly correct; do nothing.

The critical language point:

Do note that you wrote "Managed the...". You didn't state you were "The Manager" or your title was "Manager".

Note that you perfectly correctly give your title. (Example, "Economic Analyst (Co-op), Ministry of Finance").

Then, as the main description you explained that you managed such and such project, producing such and such report.

Your resume as stated is perfectly in order. Once again, very simply, you clearly and in large type give your actual title / position. Your description ("Managed the...") is then perfectly in order.

It's admirable to have brought the issue to mind and considered it (and asked a question here!) but, case closed.

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  • Oh, hey thank you for this. I was really worried. I think I will be able to properly defend why I used those words if they ask me. I totally overlooked the fact that I described exactly what I did in the next few lines. – AIQ Mar 13 at 22:24
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    Right. To be honest you wouldn't "defend" them. You would say "I managed the Employment Insurance project and developed a comprehensive project report analyzing policy trends and key differences between provinces and territories". Nothing to defend. – Fattie Mar 13 at 22:28
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Partially dissenting answer.

Create a new, corrected, version of your resume. Use this for future applications.

Don't mention anything to company A or B unless it comes up in conversation. In my opinion the discrepancy is minor. Since you were a co-op, I would expect "project manager" to mean that you did some grunt work, organized a few meetings and published a report or two. That seems "close enough" to the truth.

Someone handing me a corrected resume at the beginning of the interview is fairly unusual and it would ring my alarm bells. I would change the interview plan and immediately deep dive into this change.

Don't get me wrong: I'm a strong proponent of being honest and transparent and owning up to your mistakes. However in this case, the discrepancy doesn't feel important enough to make a big deal out of it.

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  • Thank you!! I get it now. And I think that if they ask me why I used those particular words, I will be able to explain things. But you are right, for future applications, I will make sure that I use bulletproof words/phrases so there is no room for misunderstanding. – AIQ Mar 13 at 22:28
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I am wondering if I should mention this to Company A and Company B before the interviews next week. If I should, then what is the best way to do this? What should I say?

Create a new, corrected, version of your resume.

At the start of the interview, hand a copy to the interviewer. Say something like "I was reviewing my resume with some colleagues, and they pointed out that I may have inadvertently included a bit that some would find misleading. I've changed the parts about XYZ to make it clearer that I was the lead analyst in the XYZ research study and not a manager or project manager."

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